Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

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  • Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

    Hello All:
    Working on a draft with the goal of making room to better develop character relationships.

    I'm using FD10 and the Character Reports to beat out the characters side by side in an excel sheet to visualize their journeys to determine where I might be able to consolidate characters. IOW, looking to close gaps between when we see one character and the next time we see them, trying to consolidate the "function" of two (or more) characters into one.

    So, that's the task. I'm interested in hearing from those who care to offer advice. Do you have tips and strategies that work for you to accomplish these kind of goals? What are the tips or common factors you look for in characters when combining them?

    I know it's difficult to offer advice with so little information. I'm looking for tips on processes and steps I might/should consider that will help prevent getting bogged down and frustrated.

    Grateful for any advice.
    Last edited by finalact4; 08-22-2020, 11:50 AM.
    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

  • #2
    Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

    First I want to say, I'm in awe of your process.

    As for attempting to answer your question, the one script where I had to combine characters was my first script -- an adaptation of my novel.

    What I had to do was look at which characters had the least to do with helping drive the A and B stories.

    However, the upside for me was giving the cool lines of dialogue to one character and sometimes to the protag.
    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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    • #3
      Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

      Very helpful, SC111, you hit the nail on the head. That's a good place to start and the primary problem with the structure. Thank you.

      It's a crime noir which has several antagonists. One (of two main) antagonist isn't seen fully until the third act, because a mystery is being uncovered, so I want to introduce this character earlier in the story and develop a personal relationship with the main characters. This integration in two plots cannot be achieved until I compress, and combine, the plot first.
      "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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      • #4
        Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

        Make one of the good guys also the bad guy. So someone we watch help solve the mystery or be involved, is also part of it.

        I"m seeing LA Confidential where there are dirty cops, etc. Both bad and good at times -- they could have been like 20 characters, but there were 5-10 main ones. You know?

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        • #5
          Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

          Originally posted by Bono View Post
          Make one of the good guys also the bad guy. So someone we watch help solve the mystery or be involved, is also part of it.

          I"m seeing LA Confidential where there are dirty cops, etc. Both bad and good at times -- they could have been like 20 characters, but there were 5-10 main ones. You know?
          Yep, I know what you mean. I have several antagonists that come and go and rise in importance. My goal is to reduce by two and then bring one of the two main antagonists forward in the story. Currently he is hidden until almost the ending. Establishing a relationship between the main character and this antagonist could allow me to integrate the two plot lines into a singular one.

          I do have a character seem to be revealed as an antagonist. The story then shifts again to another. And working to have an antagonist who is murdered become an ally.

          Thanks, for the insights, Bono.
          "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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          • #6
            Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

            One of my favorite thing in thriller/crime movies is to guess who the bad guy is and sometimes you're watching a movie with 4 main characters, so either they are bringing in a totally new person in the 3rd act or that minor guy on the boat you met is the real villain...

            And you can't combine bad guys into one person?

            Also a fun trick is to have the "victim" turn out to be not dead and part of the bad guy's plot.

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            • #7
              Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

              Originally posted by Bono View Post
              One of my favorite thing in thriller/crime movies is to guess who the bad guy is and sometimes you're watching a movie with 4 main characters, so either they are bringing in a totally new person in the 3rd act or that minor guy on the boat you met is the real villain...

              And you can't combine bad guys into one person?

              Also a fun trick is to have the "victim" turn out to be not dead and part of the bad guy's plot.
              I am looking at combining bad guys (ancillary ones) with a more prominent one. I do have a plot twist similar to the victim turning out NOT to be dead. I'm restructuring the timing of that reveal to the very end.
              "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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              • #8
                Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

                What is the purpose of this character? What does this character accomplish or bring to the table that another character cannot?

                If I had to, hypothetically, pay 1 million dollars to every character (with at least 1 line) as a minimum salary, which ones would I get rid of?

                If you're bringing in an antagonist late, a good way is to sprinkle dialogue about that person throughout the script. In anticipation for their arrival. This creates a mythological omniprescence of that villain and adds to the aforementioned mystery.

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                • #9
                  Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

                  Originally posted by Vango View Post
                  What is the purpose of this character? What does this character accomplish or bring to the table that another character cannot?

                  If I had to, hypothetically, pay 1 million dollars to every character (with at least 1 line) as a minimum salary, which ones would I get rid of?

                  If you're bringing in an antagonist late, a good way is to sprinkle dialogue about that person throughout the script. In anticipation for their arrival. This creates a mythological omniprescence of that villain and adds to the aforementioned mystery.
                  Yes. I have used this technique of reputation preceding the character in this script. This character is seen in a broadcast at the start of the script after a prologue opening, so he's not known. But all the minor antagonists lead to him.

                  I have a section that is a few pages long that was a lot of fun to write. I love writing dialogue and creating conflict between characters within a scene. The function of the moment is to "learn new information," so in order to allow space to build other important relationships, this part needs to be reduced to a series of shots instead. I will be cutting out this character, because this scene decompresses the pace unnecessarily.

                  I always tell myself... cut it, you will always have the draft with this moment in it. Haha. Takes the pain away of getting rid of a character you enjoy.

                  Thanks for the comments, Vango. All good points.
                  "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

                    Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
                    Hello All:
                    Working on a draft with the goal of making room to better develop character relationships.

                    I'm using FD10 and the Character Reports to beat out the characters side by side in an excel sheet to visualize their journeys to determine where I might be able to consolidate characters. IOW, looking to close gaps between when we see one character and the next time we see them, trying to consolidate the "function" of two (or more) characters into one.

                    So, that's the task. I'm interested in hearing from those who care to offer advice. Do you have tips and strategies that work for you to accomplish these kind of goals? What are the tips or common factors you look for in characters when combining them?

                    I know it's difficult to offer advice with so little information. I'm looking for tips on processes and steps I might/should consider that will help prevent getting bogged down and frustrated.

                    Grateful for any advice.

                    Archetypes can be viewed as a set of functions. Characters can encompass multiple archetypes.
                    Story Structure 1
                    Story Structure 2
                    Story Structure 3

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                    • #11
                      Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

                      Originally posted by Timmy View Post
                      Archetypes can be viewed as a set of functions. Characters can encompass multiple archetypes.
                      Yes, I agree. I use this method in my writing, too. A character can be a mentor at one moment and a trickster in another and an antagonist force in another moment.

                      These are good things to consider when consolidating characters.
                      Thanks for the comments.
                      "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Compressing Plot By Combining/Eliminating Characters

                        Originally posted by finalact4 View Post
                        Yes. I have used this technique of reputation preceding the character in this script. This character is seen in a broadcast at the start of the script after a prologue opening, so he's not known. But all the minor antagonists lead to him.

                        I have a section that is a few pages long that was a lot of fun to write. I love writing dialogue and creating conflict between characters within a scene. The function of the moment is to "learn new information," so in order to allow space to build other important relationships, this part needs to be reduced to a series of shots instead. I will be cutting out this character, because this scene decompresses the pace unnecessarily.

                        I always tell myself... cut it, you will always have the draft with this moment in it. Haha. Takes the pain away of getting rid of a character you enjoy.

                        Thanks for the comments, Vango. All good points.
                        No problem. Good luck. Let us know if you have any other ?s

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